This is the book I wrote in 2011, a journal about the poetry I was reading that year.  When I’d finished it, it was far too long and unwieldy, and also I had to leave out much of my original selection of poems for copyright reasons, so I’m going to post o a few of those omitted pages on my blog. This entry dated from September, and I’d been to the Poetry Library on the South Bank to find a book of poems by Meriol Trevor.,  Midsummer and Midwinter. I can’t find out very much about her – she belonged to that generation of quiet English writers, like Elizabeth Taylor, Frances Towers and the recently dead Elizabeth Jenkins,  who kept themselves discreetly – too discreetly – out of the male dominated babble of the literary world. She was born in 1919, of Welsh ancestry, though she didn’t speak Welsh. Educated at Cambridge she converted to Catholicism in 1950, and her biography of Cardinal Newman won the James Tait Black Memorial prize. She never married and at the end of her life lived in Bath.

I only read one of her books as a girl,  Sun Slower, Sun Faster, a romantic time travel saga, which I loved.She wrote a series of chronicles about a country  which she and a friend invented in childhood, and a number of stories  with a Christian theme, set in the late Roman British world. The last she could not get published- fashion, which had never really embraced her, cast her out altogether. I’d like to have read it – and I wish I’d written to her before she died in 2000.

Here is one of her poems. It makes a slow start, but then moves gracefully  through landscapes of the dead, starting in Italy or maybe Greece, then to London, and then to the English countryside, slightly uneasy, delicate, but startling. I especially like the last six verses , a gradual accumulation of wintery images, culminating in the sudden dazzle – and new life of Christmas. I love her deliberate use of half-rhymes; – meadows/widows, film/flame, houses, pauses.

                              The Days of the Dead                            Meriol Trevor

 Mist from the earth, rather like breath

Clouding the glass of air with a flower

From a warm mouth, stays underneath

The trees and strokes the fields over


Three years earth has sighed to me

Such a breath, but the words escape;

Between shadows the people walk by

In black, going to the dead township


A great shadow is an olive tree

Holding out oil and peace, but further

Along, poking the soft sky,

Grave tongues rise, cypress and cedar.


People are all ghosts in mist

Visiting these many quiet houses,

And, like hearts never quite eased,

The bells toll with long pauses.

They come with baskets on their heads

Set like crowns: red and white

The flowers start from the dim roads,

Life and death, blood and spirit.


All night planted in the dead

Candles burn and nobody is there:

Great sun, great God, this is the seed

You made, buried in grounds of fear.


In England, in London, the great city,

No one puts candles in dead hands,

But the man who tried to blow up the mighty

Burns on a bonfire for his friends.


They shoot stars and shout : O how bright

Are the catherine wheels like universes!

And on another day they wait

For maroons to make silence of their voices.


Poppies are given to the dead, these sons

Killed in the war, poppies for sleep,

To seal lips and wounds and our groans:

The last drug for the disease of hope.


The desire under the active face

Is sleep and the closing of the grave,

And so in the north they forget these days

Of souls and the strange life they have.


London lies stiff in the slim haze

An old man town, with the ground film

Creeping in the lonely streets of his eyes,

And no sun plants his heart with flame.

Even here, on the very island’s edge,

The fort of earth whose fierce teeth

Are worn smooth by the shifting seige

Of the sea’s hordes: here comes death.


The little flocks are on the hills,

The birds slide on the icy wind,

Sunday churches ring their peals

And plows roughen the earth’s rind.


But in the night when Orion rises

The farmer dies suddenly in his bed,

And stars grow thick as daisies

Over the place where he planted seed.


All the world is walking in winter:

People in the misty and frosty meadows

Far off are shadows and they are fainter

Than trees, and they are all orphans and widows.


But the children carry the Christmas tree

And thousand are the candles on that birthday

Come sun, and open your brilliant eye,

Come God, and bring out the new baby.

One thought on “”

  1. Lovely! I’ve got Sun Slower, Sun Faster – also a rather stiff Christian fantasy called The King of the Castle which however is a disappointing re-read.

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